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Mommy Bloggers vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup: The Sticky Truth

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I’m not one to press people on issues that I believe in and I don’t really consider myself a controversial writer. And while I am opinionated, I don’t throw it down your throat. However, when something someone does is just wrong and it affects my family and friends – that’s when I feel I have to get involved.

Recently, I had a guest post on MommyBKnowsBest about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup and the awful things that it can do (and does) to our bodies. Last month at the Type-A-Mom blogger’s conference the Corn Refiners Association launched their new name, “Corn Sugar”…along with some blogger gifts, er, bribes.

Which I promptly threw out.

It’s great that the CRA (Corn Refiners Association) is giving HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) another chance and changing the name so people won’t associate it with the bad rap that it’s gotten…or is it???

Giving the product a new name, large advertising dollars, and even outreach efforts to Mom Bloggers doesn’t make the product any different. It’s funny how CRA and even some big public relations companies are underestimating the intelligence of moms and women.

Slashfood recently reported on the backlash that CRA and some mom forums are receiving over High Fructose Corn Syrup. It seems that Mom Central, a large marketing group focused on mommy bloggers, ran a blog tour and campaign on behalf of the CRA. Mom bloggers were encouraged to write posts about all of the great things Corn Sugar has to offer, in return for a gift card.

Some bloggers took advantage of being able to write some fresh content for their blogs and get “paid” for it at the same time and there’s nothing wrong with that, but as a mom blogger I feel very strongly about doing my research on things I review and not being the type of blogger who cuts and pastes whatever the companies I’m representing want me to say. I believe that we as bloggers need to be held to a higher standard and be accountable to our readers.

Many moms who are a part of Mom Central also felt as I do, and were appalled that a mom- and kid-focused group, (what Mom Central touts itself as) would dare present such an offer to them. Really it came as a slap in the face to some of the mom blogger community, and moms everywhere are standing up for their rights. A number of Mom Central reviewers are cutting ties with the marketing group because of this controversial move.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t avoid all HFCS. We try to eat healthy and clean but it doesn’t always happen. What I don’t like is when companies are shady about being bad for you and your family. Don’t change your name, your logo, and your packaging and think that I’m not smart enough to notice, or tell my readers about it.

I believe that blog readers too need to inform themselves on what they’re reading. Don’t believe everything you read on someone’s blog, and if your morals don’t align with what that blog is saying find new blogs to read.

This mom blogger says to the world: We don’t like to be duped, and in case you didn’t know it, moms can be the most protective beings on the Earth. So don’t underestimate us! You can call high fructose corn syrup whatever you wish, but please don’t think that we all can be bought with a $50 gift certificate.

If anything good is to come from Mommy Bloggers vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup, I hope that CRA and other companies start realizing that mom bloggers really do have a voice and that some of us will fight for our causes tooth and nail. Perhaps it will even make some of us bloggers reconsider the choices we are making as we write future posts.

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  • As a representative of the CRA, what could we possibly expect you to say but EXACTLY what you have said!!! High Fructose Corn Syrup is chemical garbage that has been created in a lab and we consumers are no longer fooled by your lies and hype.

    There is a reason that people refuse to buy products that contain HFCS, the VERY same reason that the CRA wants so desperately to change the name to corn sugar. Your organization is no better than Monsanto! Chemicals are chemicals no matter what you call them. And you better believe that the CRA and everyone associated with them is in for a huge fight. The boycotting of HFCS has only just begun. Companies aren’t stupid and they have already answered the demands of consumers voting with their dollars and gone back to sweetening their products with sugar.

  • Jaclyn,

    Continued from above:

    Our educational campaign and webinar, which you can see through the link in the above comment, included information on all added sugars and gave tips on moderating these added sugars. We also have facilitated an eBook that provides sample meal plans to help with consuming a balanced diet.

    Not to mention, we petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to allow food and beverage manufacturers to use the term corn sugar to help consumers indentify all added sugars, and to show the calories, sweetness and compositional characteristics of this ingredient to consumers.

    As a mom I strive for balance and I do the best that I can, as I believe most moms do. I aim to moderate all added sugars, and to provide my kids with a balanced diet. I am thankful that I work at the Corn Refiners Association, as I have access to experts that have been studying high fructose corn syrup and other added sugars for decades, along with a host of other nutrition experts, allowing me to study an extensive amount of information on food science and added sugars. Through our educational campaign, I hope to provide this same learning that I have been fortunate enough to receive to others so that they can hear all sides of the story, voice their concerns, and ideally obtain more information that will help them better meet the nutrition needs of their families.

    Therese Pompa, Social Media Manager, CRA

  • Jaclyn,

    We do in fact address the concern that has been raised in regard to genetically modified corn; you can see more on HFCS and genetically modified corn on our website. We do not make the genetically modified corn discussion a part of our core messaging , however, because it is essentially a non-issue; while some of the corn used to produce HFCS may be derived from genetically enhanced varieties, existing scientific literature and current testing results indicate that corn DNA cannot be detected in measurable amounts in HFCS. Source: Gawienowski MC, Eckhoff SR, Yang P, Rayapati PJ, Binder T, Briskin DP. 1999. Fate of Maize DNA During Steeping, Wet-Milling, and Processing. Cereal Chemistry: 76(3)371-374..

    Citric acid, lactic acid and crystalline fructose (sometimes referred to simply as fructose) are derived from the fermentation of dextrose. Because the base material for production of these ingredients is likely free of corn DNA, it is not likely that any would be detected in the resulting products.

    Note in this context Brian Dunning’s interesting pod cast on GMO’s – “The Skeptoid – Genetically Modified Organisms: Jeopardy or Jackpot?”.

    Therese, CRA – Continued below

  • Jaclyn Bruntfield

    There is a huge piece missing here that I wrote about in a column on the Harrison Patch, which was cited in the Slashfood article on the subject.

    The CRA is not disclosing the fact that HFCS is usually made from genetically modified (GM) corn. About 86 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is GM. This is a scary thought.

    So while the CRA wants people to think that sugar is sugar, shouldn’t some of us mom bloggers (as well as the public and policy makers) question why, when we think of “food,” we think of the grocery store?

    It may be easy and convenient, but the food industry, backed by groups like the CRA, want consumers to continue to think their food shouldn’t come from local sources like farm cooperatives and even one’s own garden, but from huge monolithic corporations that sources questionable food from underpaid and over-subsidized farmers.

    It’s a sad situation, but it seems that the more these issues are discussed, the more people are inclined to “take the power back,” if you will and find better, healthier and more ethical food sources (ie: sources that the CRA doesn’t even want you to think about.)

    And for Therese, the social media manager at CRA, you said, “As a mom, I can say with confidence that the role we play in caring for our families, and buying and preparing foods to better their nutrition is very important. That is why we are engaged in a national education effort to provide science-based facts about high fructose corn syrup.”

    I find it hard to believe that, as a mom, you wouldn’t think twice about bringing foods containing HFCS into your home. Sure, the “science” the CRA has cited may indicate that HFCS isn’t unhealthy in small amounts. But people–especially those living at or near the poverty line–who aren’t educated on the fact that HFCS is in most inexpensive processed foods, are likely to consume it in volume.

    If the CRA’s true intent is to “educate” the public on HFCS, perhaps it should also provide educational materials on all of the many products that list it in their ingredients, as well as the fact that the corn industry rakes in billions using questionable agricultural technologies like genetic modification, the human health effects of which have not been studied in the long term.

  • I am happy to see there are more people that are not going to just roll over and play dead on this one. As a Holistic Health Coach and Holistic Nutritionist I work with people every day who have suffered the effects of HFCS and their ailing health. Food is our Medicine and key to long living. We have to stand up for our families and vote with our fork and at the grocers. The voice and the force of the mommy bloggers can make a difference in the marketplace and will make that difference. Thank you ladies for standing in the gap for our families.

  • Wonderful post. Standing up, fist in the air all Norma Rae style, supporting you for standing up for what you believe in.

    I also don’t feel the bloggers on the tour were as thoughtful as they might have been about the subject. Perhaps now, with all this discussion, they’ll be interested in learning the other side of the story.

    The issues with HFCS go well beyond the way the body metabolizes it, and whether, in certain ways, it is identical to sugar. The issues are environmental, political, and certainly economic when you take into account the inordinate government subsidies that allow this sweetener to be cheap and ubiquitous, quite literally permeating our food options in the US.

    The talking point repeated by the blog tour participants was “all sweeteners in moderation.” My feeling is, if this particular sweetener is less preferable to almost any other, for all those reasons – then maybe this one should be used even *more* in moderation than others.

    And Therese – you’re fighting the good fight! I kind of like that in a gal. Even if I disagree with your marketing goals here.

  • The problem with High Fructose Corn Syrup is not that it is worse for you than sugar, it’s that it is in so many products. There was a recent article in the NY Times quoting well-respected scientists like Dr. Marion Nestle saying that there is no biochemical difference between corn syrup and sugar.

    If we continue to demonize HFCS, food companies are just going to replace it with cane sugar, like the new Hunt’s ketchup mentioned in the Slash Food article.

    Making HFCS the bad guy is not going to help our problem with obesity. Another sugar will be introduced in our products, and we’ll keep consuming too much sugar as a nation. We need to teach moms to read labels, and to demand lower sugar products at the supermarket.

    I just went on a trip sponsored by the Corn Growers Association and I was thrilled to be asked. I wanted to go and ask lots of tough questions, and learn. The fact that they’re reaching out to mom bloggers and trying to engage us in discussion is great. We’re being asked to participate in a national discussion about nutrition, being invited to share our concerns about what we feed our kids. Regardless of the CRA’s motivation, shouldn’t we seize this opportunity to have our voices heard instead of pointing fingers at “exploited mommy bloggers?”

  • We have been completely transparent on why we are petitioning for an alternate name – we have all of the details at sweetsurprise under our petition announcement, and we were the ones who made the announcement in regard to the petition . There is an important trend underway in America – consumers are trying to consume less added sugars – why would we ask for an alternate name for high fructose corn syrup that included the term sugar? Because it accurately conveys the calories, sweetness and compositional characteristics of this ingredient to consumers

    PS. I believe you meant to provide this link for the Slashfood article

    We hope you are open to a dialogue. Your views are important to us.

    Therese, Social Media Manager, CRA

  • I remember meeting you at the Type A Conference, and the purpose of my attending that conference was to put a face behind our efforts and to hear the various concerns. Your views are important to us, which is why I attended the conference to hear them directly. Do you know that prior to you sitting down at the “speed dating” table that I saw on Twitter that you were in part sponsored by @NoFizzCLT, and I am aware of his views, so I was expecting and hoping that you would voice your concerns, and questions, as we want to open the dialogue. We are not underestimating the intelligence of moms or bloggers, and I am sincerely sorry that you feel this way – you, along with anyone else can view the webinar at http://www.cornsugar.com/momcentral. As a mom, I can say with confidence that the role we play in caring for our families, and buying and preparing foods to better their nutrition is very important. That is why we are engaged in a national education effort to provide science-based facts about high fructose corn syrup. The people that showed up to the webinar were interested in learning more about high fructose corn syrup and added sugars in general. Further, if you look at the webinar then you will be able to see that these bloggers did do their research and they came to the table with questions. We presented the facts, responded to their questions and understandably their time is valuable, and that is what they were compensated for, the time involved in writing the post, but this was in their own voice.


    Therese, CRA

  • AJ

    @bloggygirl, are you serious? When mom bloggers are “paid” to learn about the product, they are an extension of the companies PR dept. Do you think that the association is telling them that the product is dangerous and ruining our environment, bad for our bodies and is a healthy alternative?


    They are trying to change the name, calm our fears (so they can continue putting this crap in our food) and using the mom bloggers as their mouth piece.

    I am sorry, but this is not going ot fly with anyone. The research is out there, and changing the name is not going to make the produce safe for ANY of us.

    Let’s just be honest. Most of us will inject HFCS. We know that when we do this, we are NOT making a healthy choice. But don’t think that we are IDIOTS and will go around telling everyone to rethink how BAD this is for us.


  • Hmmm that’s interesting from what I read bloggers were to report bits of information given by Corn Sugars to their readers. I supposed that constitutes as educational if you’re learning about it, but it doesn’t mean that HFCS are good for you.

  • bloggygirl

    “but as a mom blogger I feel very strongly about doing my research on things I review and not being the type of blogger that cuts and pastes whatever the companies I’m representing want me to say. I believe that we as bloggers need to be held a higher standard and be accountable to our readers.”

    I feel you did not do your homework on this one MBKB. The campaign was actually an educational piece, not to have bloggers write great things about HFCS. You say above that you research before you review, but it couldn’t be further from the truth on this one.